"I’m not a stripper, I’m a performer," says Sid Saayman. "I dance, I sing, I act—I do all of these other things that you pay good money to go and see a production for. But I do add the element of a little bit of abs, and chest, and bum.”
Sid is the founder of MenXclusive, a group that calls itself “Melbourne’s Most Thrilling All Male Cabaret”. But getting a gig is tough in an industry where few adult entertainment venues employ male erotic performers. There are just four venues in Melbourne that host “women’s nights” led by male performers—and each of them only once a week.
For Sid and his men, stripping is a constant hustle for one-off shows, home performances, and hens nights. Behind the lights and glamour of every performance are hours of dance rehearsals, gym regimes, and skin, hair, and costume prep.
Sid expects perfection from his men: personally inspecting their rehearsals, their equipment bags, and their body hair. In such a competitive industry, he says performers “can’t afford” to mess up the choreography or have their props malfunction. And one step out of place is enough to trigger an expletive-laden tirade from the passionate frontman.
It's a high pressure gig, and the level of expectation is fierce. But while many people still refuse to acknowledge it as a "real job", there's a certain demographic of people who see value in the art of erotic performance. According to MenXClusive’s female clients, the shows offers women a space to affirm their sexuality safely and without judgement. Or as one bride-to-be so eloquently puts it: “I’m getting married, and I kind of want some dicks in my face.”
For many of the performers, though, the biggest drawcard is simply the ability to fulfil their passion for being on stage. “Whether it’s a small crowd or a crowd of hundreds, there’s always a moment for me where I can stop and go, this is what I love doing,” Sid says.
In this episode of Australiana, VICE follows MenXClusive as they prepare for a major performance at the annual “Sinner’s Ball” in Cairns. It’s the chance to perform for an audience of hundreds and a rare opportunity for Sid and his team within an industry that usually excludes male strippers.